Stakes are Too High to Take on Legal Matters Alone

By Florida Bar President Gary Lesser

Think about the last time you had a bad toothache, or your car broke down -- did you attempt to do-it-yourself, or did you go to an expert to get the job done right? My guess is that you went to a dentist or a mechanic. 

We all know that going to a trained professional in these situations is a much better idea than trying to take care of it ourselves, so why do so many Floridians try to "go it alone" with legal matters, when the consequences can be so significant and costly to themselves, their businesses, and their families?

Interestingly, according to a recent Florida survey, 91% of respondents believed that retaining a lawyer would help protect their rights or interests; 84% believe that doing so would reduce the stress of dealing with a legal issue; and 84% believe that hiring a lawyer would result in a better or more equitable outcome.

And for those who have hired a lawyer, satisfaction and outcomes are significantly higher. In fact, that same June 2022 survey found that Floridians who represented themselves for divorce or custody matters, for example, were 88% more satisfied than those who retained a lawyer. 

We see situations every day where someone could have avoided unnecessary stress or saved a significant amount of money by having legal guidance during these pivotal life moments. That is why The Florida Bar is launching its Life's Legal Moments initiative -- a public education resource that will help inform Floridians about how to get the help of a lawyer when (or sometimes before) the need is there. And given that three out of four Floridians have dealt with a civil legal issue in the past decade, it's practically a matter of when, not if, a lawyer could help them with these important life moments. 

These life moments can include everything from buying a house, drafting a reliable will, or dealing with an employment dispute, filing a divorce, forming a business, or obtaining guardianship, among many other issues. 

You might think that representing yourself or waiting to see if anything goes wrong will save hassle, time, and money, and that you'll be able to just "figure it out." But the reality is that the opposite is largely the case. 

For example, a home buyer doesn't hire an attorney to look over the contract or the closing statement. Thousands of dollars are lost, and that new homebuyer may have also purchased liabilities that they are unaware of that may prove very costly. Hiring an attorney to review everything would have saved significant dollars and protected their family from possible future litigation.

Lawyers can help simplify the process and make sure your legal rights are fully protected. One study found that there are nearly 200 discrete tasks you might not consider about engaging a lawyer, from finding the right court to interpreting the law, filing motions, compiling evidence, and negotiating a settlement. The process can be overwhelming -- a seemingly small misstep could result in costly, even devastating, outcomes. Experienced lawyers who are familiar with the legal process can be very helpful. 

The Life's Legal Moments website has a collection of helpful tools, including a step-by-step guide on How to Hire an Attorney, legal aid resources, and lawyer referral service resources and links.

There are lawyers throughout Florida who can help Floridians as they navigate life's many legal challenges. Be sure to consult a legal professional in these major life moments to protect yourself and your family.